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Kansas Higher Education Takes A Bigger Than Expected Cut, Tuition Could Go Higher

Dyche Hall, University of Kansas
Dyche Hall, University of Kansas

The regular meeting of the Kansas Board of Regents Wednesday already had a bit of a somber tone; all six universities came in with tuition hike requests between 3.3 percent and 5 percent. In a 109-page document the schools detailed increased expenses and an anticipated 3 percent cut from the state.

By the end of the meeting the Regents and the presidents looked like they had the wind knocked out of them. The news had just broken that Gov. Sam Brownback was cutting 4 percent from all of higher education. That is a $30.6 million cut to universities, technical schools, community colleges and the Regent's office.

Making the news even more difficult, schools have only 43 days left to craft a budget before the next fiscal year starts.

“You’ve already looked at budgets. You’ve already got things planned. You’re hoping for stable funding and planning on that,” says Regents Chairman Shane Bangerter.

Particularly galling to the Regents is a cut of $875,664 in student scholarships spread across the system.

Now, says Bangerter, the universities are in a precarious situation; if they raise tuition too much to cover cuts from the state they could drive away students. “Raising tuition, if that effects your enrollment, you can have the effect of raising tuition and cutting your revenue.”

Nobody is more worried about that than Pittsburg State University President Steven Scott. Pittsburg sits right on the Missouri state line. Tuition for in-state undergraduates there has been frozen.

“When you’ve got a neighbor 25 miles away, Missouri Southern that’s getting a four percent increase in their base funding and they’re freezing tuition, that’s really a difficult challenge for us to overcome,” Scott says. “It’s putting us at a competitive disadvantage. And the problem with this? overall is it compounds over time. That’s our greatest concern.”

Most of the budgets presented had plans to increase pay across the board or target some pay hikes. Those plans may be the first to go.

In a statement, the Regents said state funding for higher education has been cut $100 million since 2007-2008.

The schools will be back next month for final approval of their budgets which may include additional tuition and fee increases, budget cuts or a combination.

Here's what the Governor's cuts means to each institution:

  • University of Kansas               $7,009,260
  • KU Medical Center                  $3,720,190
  • Kansas State University          $5,219,623
  • K-State Veterinary                   $509,103
  • Wichita State University         $2,846,788
  • Emporia State University        $855,204
  • Fort Hays State University      $1,059,685
  • Pittsburg State University       $1,020,815
  • Washburn University               $476,036

Sam Zeff  covers education for KCUR. He's also co-host of KCUR's political podcast Statehouse Blend. Follow him on Twitter @SamZeff.

You deserve to know what your taxpayer dollars are paying for and what public officials are doing on your behalf – I’ll work to report on irresponsible government spending in the Kansas City area and shed light on controversies that slow government down. And when you hear my voice in the morning, you know you’re getting everything you need to start your day. Email me at sam@kcur.org, find me on Twitter @samzeff or call me at 816-235-5004.
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